Will owners consider NHLPA's 'alternative'?
Saner heads will prevail.
That’s the best any of us can hope for as the National Hockey League and its players try to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement.
Tuesday’s response by NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr was in stark contrast to the tactics used by Bob Goodenow in 2004.
Instead of countering the league’s July 13 demands – which amounted to a declaration of war, for all intents and purposes – Fehr presented what he called “an alternative view.”
The tone of Tuesday’s session was anything but super friendly. Judging from the solemn expressions on the players' faces afterward and Fehr’s own admission that the league made its points in a “frank” manner, this isn’t going to be an easy negotiation.
The players see the obvious: The league’s issues are really among the owners themselves – not with the players. They made $3.3 billion last season. And still, too many owners feel they’re not earning enough individually.
The owners want more revenue and less sharing. The players can give only so much. Unless the percentages of what is given to the small-market, financially-strapped teams increases substantially, the owners' problems will never be solved.
The financial money makers – the Maple Leafs, Rangers, Flyers, Red Wings, etc. – don’t want to see a complete overhaul of how the monies are divided. They earn their dollars; they feel they’re entitled to decide how those dollars should spent.
And they want it spent mainly in their own market – not others.
The union’s proposal, they say, would guarantee at least $250 million in annual revenue sharing for all clubs over the life of a three-year (fourth-year option) contract.
League revenue growth averaged seven percent in the current deal. If it continued this way, under the union’s proposal, the NHL would reap $465 million in savings. If it grew, it might reach $800 million.
The giveback? The union says it will take a reduction in the HRR – hockey related revenues.
As reported by the Toronto Globe and Mail
, New York Post
and Canadian Press, the players would get a two percent revenue share in Year 1; then four percent and finally six percent in Year 3. In Year 4, the players retain the option to return to the present cut, which is 57 percent.
That’s a fairly significant “giveback” by the players, one which the owners need to embrace and realize that the framework for a deal is right there.
Essentially, the players are saying, “You’re going to make the bulk of the money in the first three years and then we get a shot, if we choose.”
“I like it a lot,” Sidney Crosby told reporters in Toronto. “I think like Don [Fehr] says, it addresses the issues that the league has with [some] teams and making sure as players we do our part to help those teams out but also holding teams accountable to doing that, too.
“At end of the day it’s going to take both to do that and that’s what our proposal shows.”
Today, the NHL may or may not respond.
Commissioner Gary Bettman admitted the owners need time to digest this proposal.
Nonetheless, we should know by week’s end whether there is a genuine framework for a deal here or we’re headed for a lockout.
If Bettman says that the players' vision of revenue sharing simply won’t work and that’s that, then a lockout is pretty much assured.
If, however, he says there is merit to the proposal and the two sides will begin discussing it further, then there is less worry of a Sept. 15 lockout.
Again, the key is revenue sharing. The players want far more of it redistributed by the league while the 10 wealthiest clubs want status quo – at best.
Fehr said the hard salary cap would remain in their proposal but has “some exceptions,” which could be interpreted as a luxury tax.
“In essence, when you boil it all down,” Fehr said on Tuesday, “what were suggesting is that the players partner with the financially stronger owners to stabilize the industry and assist the less financially strong ownership groups.” E-mail Tim Panaccio at firstname.lastname@example.org